Is Backgammon Considered a Sport Too?

We tend to believe so. When it comes to Sports, Backgammon, in the words of the slogan used by the Worldwide Backgammon Federation, is a Sport of Mind, a game where skill overrides the luck factor of the dice, and thus an experienced player, who has studied winning strategies, coupled with some talents in math, can will win more often against a player with lesser abilities.

You can find many articles about Backgammon in Sports magazines and on Sports websites, like
ESPN and Sports Illustrated. It is a part of daily recreation for many people and cultures. In Greece, where three variants of the game are played, Backgammon is known as the ‘National Pastime’ and children are taught the game as young as five years old.

In Costa Rica it is actually registered as a Sport by the Costa Rican Backgammon Association with the Ministry of Culture and Youth (Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud).

It is also a gambling game just like slots (which, by the way, you can play at Professional Backgammon Tournaments offer a lot of fun and excitement and are held in some of the world’s most exclusive venues. In 2007, The Million Dollar tournament was held at the famous Atlantis Resort in The Bahamas, where 120 players, many of them champions and title-holders, competed for $1.2 million dollars.

Famous people from the past and today have played Backgammon. And people like Hugh Hefner of the Playboy magazine have helped to keep it popular since the heyday the game experienced between the 1960s and 1980s.

Politicians, such as U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, and
members of Royalty, example, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, have played backgammon, the oldest game in history, also known as ‘The Game of Kings’ and ‘The King of Games’.

Countless celebrities have enjoyed the passion and thrill of the game. We always remember Lucille Ball and Omar Sharif, both of which have organized separate charity backgammon tournaments. Pamela Anderson also organized a backgammon charity event during the 2014 Cannes Film Festival to launch the Pamela Anderson Foundation, an animal welfare organization.

Liberace, Tina Turner, Nicole Kidman, Stephen Spielberg, Kylie Minogue, Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tomas Arana, Keira Knightley, Toby McGuire, Charlize Theron, and a plethora of others, have also played Backgammon over the years. Imagine some of these playing on the sets of movies between takes? Or playing publicly, perhaps at an outdoor cafe or at a real live backgammon tournament at some exotic place in the world. It happens more than you might believe, they are drawn to the allure of the game and they add to the glamour of it.

A lot of famous sports figures have been known to play Backgammon, such as Baseball players Ken Caminiti and Roger Clemens, Tennis players Chris Evert and Tim Henman and Golfer Sam Torrance just to name a few.

Back in 2006, published an article that said 40% of the Green Bay Packers NFL team play backgammon regularly on a stunning backgammon table installed in their locker room.

Packers offensive linemen Chad Clifton (L) and Mark Tauscher

playing on the Packers’ backgammon table in 2006.

There is also a sports legend related to Backgammon. Back in 1978, the greatest hockey player ever, Wayne Gretzky, aka "The Great One”, briefly played with the World Hockey Association's Indianapolis Racers until traded to the Edmonton Oilers, then of the WHA as well. When the WHA shut down, the Oilers joined the National Hockey League (NHL), where Gretzky established many records and helped to take the Oilers to five Stanley Cup victories between 1984 and 1990.

As the tale goes, Wayne Gretzky might have gone to the Winnipeg Jets instead, depending on the outcome of a game of Backgammon between the owners of two hockey teams. Almost, but that game never happened.

On page 165 of the book, "The Game of Our Lives" written in 2004 by Canadian broadcaster Peter Gzowski, the late writer and reporter who travelled around the NHL's 1980-81 season with the Edmonton Oilers, it says this about that backgammon game:

"Tell you what," said Skalbania. "We'll play one game of backgammon. If you win, you can have him at your figure. If I win, I get a piece of the Jets."

"I'm not that good of a backgammon player," said Gobuty.

Some other details on this tale can be found on this Wikipedia page, under the heading of "World Hockey Association".

With the way machine learning is advancing, to do the tasks of humans, and take away half of the jobs away from us, it looks like there be little left for most humans to do, other than playing games or sports. Make mine Backgammon anytime.

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